Europe's GDPR law was supposed to kill location-based advertising. Here's how one firm claims it has reworked its business to make it work.

Ross Webster, managing director of Europe at Factual

  • In April 2018, location data firm Factual shut down several of its European-based products because of legal concerns stemming from Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation.
  • Factual said it cut by more than half the number of data companies it works with since then and is starting to pitch its products to European advertisers again.
  • Factual said it also reworked its contracts with European-based data providers to include specific guidelines about how data is collected.
  • The firm said it believed these steps would give it a leg up when the forthcoming California Consumer Privacy Act rolls out in January.
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A year into the European Union rolling out the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, location data firm Factual is getting ready to expand in Europe.

The location data firm is one of a handful of advertising and marketing tech firms that shut down part of its European business ahead of the data-collection law being enforced. GDPR requires businesses to explicitly get consumers’ consent before collecting their data for ad targeting. Data firms that use location stats from smartphones have been a particular target of scrutiny under the law.

Read more: We got the pitch deck Foursquare is using to sell advertisers location data — even as regulation and privacy concerns mount

Factual scrapped its European database and stopped offering advertisers its targeting, measurement and insight products. Developers and publishers send location data from apps to Factual that advertisers then use to create audience segments for targeting and measuring campaigns. The firm cut more than half of the providers it works with (which it didn’t name) and is relaunching its products in Europe.

To spearhead the expansion, Factual hired Ross Webster as managing director of Europe. Webster was previously EMEA head of data partnerships at IBM’s Watson Advertising.

 The company has a small office in London with seven employees, and Ross said that by the first quarter of 2020, Factual would sell all of its products to European advertisers and operate in a handful of markets in continental Europe.

“There’s a pent-up desire for quality location data within Europe,” he said.

Factual slashed its data partners

The firm has also put together a GDPR compliance program for partners, including an auditing process and new terms and agreements in contracts. Before a partner supplies location data to Factual, the company’s privacy team vets a partner’s process of collecting data to make sure that it meets GDPR’s requirements. Partners also undergo audits on an ongoing basis, though Factual did not provide further details about the timing of audits.

“We feel like we’re in a position where we can make available these three products within Europe built off of a pool of responsibly-sourced data,” said Brian Czarny, CMO of Factual. “We’ll continue to add additional suppliers as we feel like there are others in the market that are ready to do that.”

Scale is often a challenge for marketers with location-based advertising, but Czarny said that wiping its European database to build it again from scratch puts a bigger focus on collecting high-quality data.

“We don’t expect for the scale to reach pre-GDPR volume,” he said.

Factual is trying to get ahead of US privacy regulation

Factual said it hoped that its work over the past year would help it prepare for the forthcoming California Consumer Privacy Act (or CCPA) that takes effect in January and which will put similar restrictions to GDPR on how marketers collect and use data.

A crop of privacy-minded firms are helping marketers comply with CCPA.

While CCPA and GDPR aren’t identical, both require marketers to show consumers what data they collect and delete it if a consumer requests for it to be deleted.

“What we’re doing with GDPR gives us a solid foundation to be ready for upcoming regulation like CCPA,” Czarny said.

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